A/N: This is more a preview than the actual beginning of the process. I have a few chapters in progress, but they shouldn't be up for a while. Meanwhile, I figured you all deserved the first instalment, just as a taster. Next chapter should be up in about a week...maybe...
IMPORTANT: If you would rather I took this off and waited until I could update regularly, tell me. If not, well...read on.
Well, here we are once again. If you are a newcomer, and have not yet read 'Ironic Synchronicity', I would strongly advise it. This is a sequel, and there will be aspects which cannot be understood unless the previous instalment has been read.
This first part of 'Mistaken Perception' will be written solely in the real world (not in Narnia). The second half, however, shall be in Narnia. I have absolutely no idea how long it will be…we shall just have to wait and see.
As for updating speed, once I've got a few chapters ahead; I feel an approximate of one every two days will allow me to breath easier than one a day. Apologies, but I just don't think I would be able to keep up!
Disclaimer: Narnia belongs solely to CS Lewis, and I sincerely hope he will not mind me borrowing his characters for a slight variation (cough cough) on his story.
Warnings: Nothing really. As ever, a little blood spilt.
Rating: PG13 American, 12 English.
Full (extremely long) summary: It's been a year since the Pevensie children returned from their adventures during the evacuation. Edmund passed the scholarship exams for St Lewis Institution of Creative Arts, and has since spent a term with his brother at the boarding school. Now Lucy, too, has gained a scholarship at Susan's school: Warden Grammar School for Girls.
None of the children have forgotten Narnia, and back in the realm they once ruled over, evil rises once again. As the hours of darkness lengthen and cast a sinister shadow over the dying land, will the legendary kings of queens of the golden days rise again, and lead their country to salvation once more?
Part One: Late Arrivals
August 25th, 1929, Wickerton Railway Line.
"Daddy, wait! I can' reach the bramble berry…"
Henry Pevensie turned from his perusal of the dying afternoon sun, and smiled as he watched his four year old son stand awkwardly on tiptoe, tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth in concentration as he desperately reached upwards.
It was that warm, lazy time of day. The lull in the afternoon just before the sun set, when all the world seemed to be slipping drowsily into sleep.
Peter Pevensie made a wild grab for the luscious, beady black berry which he had set his heart upon, mouth watering with the thought of the sweet juice brimming below its surface.
He let out a yelp of surprise as he overbalanced, and his sky blue eyes widened in fear as he toppled over the metal railway track and to the gravel strewn path. He frowned determinedly as he made to get up, starting in surprise as two strong arms bodily lifted him from the ground.
"No, Dadda, I wanna do it by my owns…"
Henry smiled fondly as the child wiggled and struggled in his arms, twisting around to scowl petulantly at the offending berry. He laughed lightly, and settled his son comfortably on his hip as he moved closer to the bush.
"Don't you mean 'by yourself', Peter?"
He asked, softly. Strange as it sounded, he felt as though they had to be hushed in order to not disturb the quiet. A childish fantasy, perhaps, but not any the less real to him.
The child pouted, turning round blue eyes on his father, a curtain of thatched golden hair tossing about his head as a lazy autumn breeze picked up. Henry chuckled at his son's frown, and lightly flicked Peter's nose with his forefinger.
The boy squealed and squirmed in his arms, but Henry could see the tiny smile growing across Peter's face.
"Please? Jus' this las' one! Then go home?"
Henry Pevensie pretended to hesitate, and dithered as Peter watched his expression with eager anticipation. Henry suddenly grinned, and bounced the giggling child up and down on his hip as he stepped neatly over the rails to stand right beside the bush.
"Oh, go on then. But just this once…and don't tell your Mother."
Peter clapped his hands in ecstasy, his round face lighting up.
"No, I promise! Me no tell Momma."
Not bothering to correct his son's grammatical error on the basis that he was, after all, only four, Henry shifted the child around so that he held him under the armpits and hoisted him upwards. Peter reached out eagerly, gently clasped the berry between his chubby hands, and pulled.
Henry turned back to face the setting sun over the corn fields, smiling as Peter quickly devoured his prize with many small exclamations of 'mmmmm, yummy!' and the like.
There was a peaceful silence, as Henry watched the dancing shadows cast by the rays of the oncoming night, smiling as Peter yawned widely before resting his head against his father's shoulder.
Came the sleepy inquiry, just as Henry thought his son had drifted off. Peter never stayed awake for the return journey along the track to the station, always too stuffed full of blackberries in Autumn, too cold in Winter, too hot in Summer and…well, usually too ill in Spring.
Peter always suffered horrendous colds in Spring.
A small, pink hand rose in front of Henry's vision, sticky with berry juice. There was a pause, as Henry frowned, confused.
"I prick'ed myself by a thorn."
Henry reached up his free hand to inspect the finger, noting that there was a trail of crimson mixed in with the black. He sighed, gently probing the digit until he found the tiny incision where the thorn had entered.
It wasn't deep, but was obviously painful. Most children Peter's age would be griping and growing teary eyed as it stung, but not Peter. Henry had always wondered at his son's resilience to that sort of thing.
"Oh, dear…well then, Daddy will kiss it better."
Came the whine, and Peter made a muffled sound of protest as the finger was subjected to such 'abuse', then gently wiped with a handkerchief. The child closed one eye and peered at the now clean, unmarked digit in scrutiny.
The sun had set now; smudged yellow and red clouds forming pink hues in the wide blue bowl of the sky above them. Henry settled his son against his chest before turning away, walking at a slow pace back down the railway line, carefully skirting the brambles beside the fence, mindful of the perilous thorns.
The next day, he would be leaving to join the armed forces for the conventional national service.
August 30th, 1940, Wickerton Railway Line.
"Peter, wait up! My shoelace…"
Peter Pevensie turned carefully, perilously balanced upon the rusty railway track. He hefted the large brown paper parcel more securely under his arm, watching his younger brother hastily fumble with his laces.
He raised his head, staring out across the empty, leaf strewn fields to see the sun slipping further and further down in the west. He sighed, and slipped off the rails to the gravel path with a sigh.
"Hurry it up, Ed. Not long till dusk now…"
Edmund gave the knot one last experimental tug, and, seemingly satisfied clambered wearily to his feet. He adjusted the strap of his gas mask with a frown, noting that the cardboard box was practically falling apart.
"Do we have to take these to…school?"
Peter smiled as Edmund's eyes became unfocused, and he bit his lip as he always did when he was worried. Edmund had, that very morning, received a letter bearing the news that he had been accepted into 'St Lewis Institution of Creative Arts', Peter's school.
It hadn't been so much a pleasant surprise, as a saving grace. Funds were low, and they couldn't afford the fee for boarding school. Edmund had tried for the scholarship, which granted him free access into the school. It had been a close run-thing. Had he failed, he would have received only local schooling from what was left of the county facilities.
But, more importantly to Edmund, he would have been away from Peter.
And that had driven him to study solidly for many months, meticulously striving to complete the scholarship exam. Apparently, it had paid off. However, it made the experience no less daunting.
Edmund felt a consoling arm slip around his shoulder, and he glanced up into the warm depths of his brother's smiling eyes.
"Don't worry, Ed. I'll be there whenever you need me."
Edmund frowned, gathering his own brown parcel to his chest while muttering under his breath:
"I wasn't worried…just…apprehensive."
Peter rolled his eyes and ruffled his brother's hair, taking his arm and leading him down the gravel edge of the track. Brambles had spiralled out of control, strewn across the disused track in wild disarray.
Peter no longer needed aid to reach the highest branches, he mused, as he plucked a ripe berry from a dangling branch. He frowned, troubled. The war had grown more vicious recently, raids getting earlier and earlier as the enemy grew bolder. If they were caught out here…
He pursed his lips, tightening his grip on his brother and hauling him faster down the track. Edmund protested, but quickened his own pace to match his brother's obligingly.
"I thought you said this was a shortcut! Doesn't seem like it, if you ask me."
They had nearly reached the junction which led up to the bridge now. Peter smiled, recalling a time when he had sat upon his father's shoulders and shrieked as the trains rounded the corner, waving enthusiastically when it whistled.
His face fell.
The only whistling nowadays was that of the wailing air raid sirens; and sometimes, they were too late, and the first warning you got was when something exploded. Peter glanced nervously up at the sky, hauling Edmund over the stile and hurrying up the uneven paving of the road.
"You think we'll make it? Before dark, I mean."
Edmund asked quietly as they rounded the corner, passing the post office and the local grocers. He winced as the coarse string of the parcel cut into his palm. Who would have thought that rations and coupons would ever weigh so much?
"Not sure; if we hurry."
Edmund sighed; Peter was in 'efficiency mode' now. That meant he focused only on the priorities necessary to achieve their goal. It had been necessary in Narnia, but here…in the suburbs of London, it seemed less noble and more paranoid.
Then again, it was difficult to remain 'magnificent' when you were nothing more than an adolescent in the middle of a war. Or just, for that matter.
Peter's hand tightened around his forearm as they reached the end of their road, the entire town submerged in eerie silence as the clock tower struck five. Edmund glanced up to the sky as Peter determinedly led them onwards.
"Come on, Ed."
The front gate was wrenched open, and they scurried up the garden path, skirting around debris and bricks from the previous night's raid. Halfway up the road an elderly couple had perished in the tyranny of an incendiary bomb, just last week.
Peter rapped abruptly on the front door, glancing up at the small stained glass window in the top, now taped over with brown lines to prevent it from shattering in a blast. Edmund's eyes scanned the sky and listened intently.
The door swung open; to reveal a pouting Lucy, hand on hip and glaring up at them in an uncanny resemblance to her mother. Peter and Edmund had the courtesy to look sheepish, Edmund shuffling self consciously behind his brother.
"And just where have you two been? Mummy's worried."
They breathed a sigh of relief as she gave them a reproving look, but stepped aside nonetheless. A couple of weeks ago, she had forced them to scramble through a downstairs window because they had arrived too late.
And for some reason, Susan had found it hilariously amusing, much to the boy's indignant affront.
As the door slammed shut, all three of them stood for a moment in the hall, staring at the closed kitchen door with nervous apprehension.
The scholarship letter was not the only news which had come today.
Helen Pevensie felt as though her heart had been ripped to shreds. Torn in two, so wearied with sorrow that she could barely draw breath for the leaden weight of it.
She could pretend no longer.
She could not continue to watch her youngest run to the window to stare down the garden path every morning; couldn't bear to watch her eldest shudder every time he saw the picture upon the mantelpiece.
She could feel it, see it in his face; the same haunted, weary resignation in Henry's blue eyes stared her in the eye every day, accusing, hurting.
Had she truly dreamed, when the angel who resembled Peter so had come to her? He had seemed so real.
But it mattered little.
What mattered…was that she was about to tell her children, her babies, that they no longer had a father. That Henry…was dead.
The door creaked open, and Lucy's head peeped around it. Helen smiled tiredly, kneading her brow with shaking hands as Lucy entered, standing awkwardly in the doorway.
"Peter and Ed are back, Mum. You…do you want me to get Susan, now?"
She nodded briefly, dropping her gaze to the stained, faded surface of the table. Lucy's eyes filled with concern, but she reluctantly left, passing her brother's with shared worried glances as her son's approached her.
Peter hesitated, then hurried over to his mother's side, as Helen clutched the small slip of paper in her hand convulsively. His eyes held a fear which was not born of mere uncertainty.
Oh yes, he knew.
He asked, voice on edge. Edmund hovered at his shoulder, a concerned frown set in his freckled face. Helen tore her gaze away, Henry's eyes staring starkly at her from her son's face.
Peter flinched, and drew away, hurt now shining in those eyes. Helen just managed to refrain from breaking, then. She could hardly bear to even look at her eldest.
The cruelty of fate, at its peak.
"Wait a while, boys. Edmund, would you get us all some tea?"
Peter went to help his brother, but Edmund placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. They shared a look, and Helen vaguely marvelled at the wealth of communication in that single glance between them.
Peter relented, and sat in the chair farthest from his mother.
For a few minutes, the only sounds which filled the kitchen were the soft mechanical workings of the clock on the wall, and the resounding chink's of china and metal as Edmund hastily made the tea.
Then, there were the sounds of two footfalls on the stairs. Peter sat up stiffly, and Helen's hands clenched so hard the knuckles turned white. She drew a deep breath, reinforcing her resolve.
She had to be strong. For her children, if not for Henry.
Susan and Lucy entered, Susan appearing troubled, Lucy nervous. Edmund handed each a scalding cup of tea, then hurried over to hand one to his mother, then Peter. He frowned slightly as the two spare seats were occupied by his sister's, then shrugged, jumping up onto the kitchen counter as close to his brother as he could be.
Helen managed a smile.
"So, boys. Did you get the parcels?"
Peter nodded silently, retrieving them from beneath the table and handing them to her in turn. She flipped over the label with trembling fingers, and her heart sank as she saw it was addressed thus:
Mr P. Pevensie
36 Harlock Avenue
7 Cambridge Road
National Records Office
Just as she had feared; Henry still strived to protect her, even in death. But to give such a task to Peter? He was a child; a boy. He was not ready for such responsibility.
She drew a deep breath and smiled at Edmund shakily, determined to avoid her eldest's accusing gaze.
"Thank you, dear. Peter, this is for you. But…wait a while. Don't open it yet."
She slid the package once more to the floor, and turned to the second, slightly larger one. This, unlike the other, was of an indistinct shape. She frowned, and studied the printed lettering stamped across it.
Mr E Pevensie
36 Harlock Avenue
If lost, kindly return to:
St Lewis Boarding School
Helen forced an encouraging smile as she slid the package across to Edmund, who took it with a frown and hastily ripped it open. A neatly stacked pile of clothing spilled out across the table, including a dark red school blazer emblazoned with the St Lewis insignia.
Helen felt a sharp stab of pain mixed with joy as Edmund turned eagerly to his brother, who clapped him on the shoulder and smiled proudly. It seemed his school uniform had arrived. Oh, if only Henry could see this…
But Edmund no longer had a father to be proud of him.
Only an older brother, forced to grow beyond his years, and a weakening mother, finally buckling under the pressures of harsh reality.
Susan held up each garment in turn, studying the design and commenting on how it was probably a little large, but Edmund would likely grow into them within a few months. Helen's heart gave another sharp jolt, as Lucy congratulated her brother for the fifth time that day.
Helen cleared her throat, and all three looked up. Helen swallowed thickly, steeled her resolve and spoke as steadily as she could.
"Children…sit down, please."
They all froze, and Susan sat back down on the kitchen chair beside her mother, Lucy settling comfortably on her lap as Susan wrapped her arms around her. Edmund clasped the back of the last remaining kitchen chair, hesitated, and then shifted it closer to Peter before sitting.
Helen felt a numb, cold chill settle across her chest as she slowly moved the slip of paper away from her lap and held it up.
"This…came this morning."
There was a small silence. Nobody moved, and it seemed the world had frozen, not even daring to take a breath.
"What is it, Mummy? Who is it from?"
Helen felt a bitter resentment half heartedly spread throughout her mind, and her voice broke as she spoke.
"The armed forces."
Still nothing; not a sound, not a single intake of air. Lucy tremulously broke the silence once more as the ominous rattling of china indicated that somebody's hands had begun to shake.
"What did it say?"
Helen did not answer, her eyes closed, her head only supported by her hand as she leant on the table.
Helen couldn't do it. She slowly opened her eyes, seeing the growing horror and panic filling each of her children's eyes with unbearable pain.
"No…it's not. Tell me…"
Susan choked out, and then there was the crash and shatter of china as her cup fell to the floor. Nobody flinched, nor even blinked. Edmund stood, slowly, and stumbled over to clutch the back of Peter's chair with white knuckled fists.
"I'm so sorry, my darlings…"
Lucy wriggled frenziedly out of her sister's arms and reached for her mother's hands, willing Helen to look at her. Helen did so, her eyes stinging and her throat sore.
"Mummy? Mummy, please…"
But Helen turned away, as tears welled over in her youngest child's eyes. Lucy folded her arms around her stomach and her face contorted into an utterly wretched mask of agony.
She began to sob.
"Mother, may I have a moment?"
Susan choked out, her voice clipped and fluctuating violently. Helen did not answer, merely let her head fall further into her aching palm. She couldn't do this. She couldn't.
The chair fell to the floor with a crash as Susan tore out of the room, her harsh breaths fading as she scrambled up the stairs, gasping as she tripped and fell. Nobody moved as she curled against the banister and lapsed into quiet cries of sorrow.
Lucy took one look at her mother's slumped figure, before she let out a strangled cry and ran from the room, the door swinging and slamming behind her.
There was the scraping of wood on tiles as Peter slid out of his chair to the floor, gathering the shards of broken china together in a pile before freezing as the sharp edge cut into his palm.
Helen watched as the eyes of her dead husband glazed over with tears.
"It can't…are…they…could they be wrong?"
Helen shook her head, a deranged smile twisting her features.
"No, Peter. No mistake. They sent what's left home in a box, as they had no remains to return."
She laughed bitterly, before she fell from her chair, hunching over herself against the wall. She had broken, her heart failing to rekindle the light of hope within her.
He was not the only who had died when his heart had stopped beating.
For she had died with him.
"No…I…can't…I won't! Their lying, they…"
Peter pushed the hair from his own brow as he abandoned the scattered to china to meet his brother's pleading gaze. Edmund was looking to him, searching his brother's eyes for some tiny flicker of hope.
Peter lowered his gaze, and shook his head.
He felt as though he had lost his father twice; yet another shard of his soul withering and dying as he saw the despairing defeat in his little brother's eyes.
Edmund simply stared at him, shaking violently.
He reached out like a child, and Peter could do nothing but wrap his arms around him and silentlystand as Edmund tried desperately to hold himself together.
After a few minutes, Edmund stilled, and he weakly turned into Peter's chest, the very bones of his body giving one last shiver. Peter could only smile bitterlyas Edmund slammed a fist into his brother's chest, sinking to the floor, pullingPeter down with him.
"You're not Dad…you're not…"
Edmund's voice broke off as he buried his head violently in his brother's shoulder, gripping Peter's back with a painful clench. Peter enfolded his brother close to him, wishing with all his heart that he could bear the pain for him.
"I know, Ed. I know I'm not."
He whispered, soft but hoarse, worn by the simple truth…that he was now, truly, on his own.
It hadn't seemed real, until now.
There would be no more consoling hugs; no more protective arms to sweep him up, no more drowsy kisses upon his cheek as he drifted into sleep.
He had so little to give, and so much to provide for.
Edmund couldn't hear him; and Peter was glad.
From now on…he must bear the weight alone.
"I'm so sorry…"
Neither recalled slipping past their sister's restlessly sleeping forms on the stairs; nor falling to Peter's bed, nor the far off rumblings of approaching aircraft.
All Peter knew, was that finally, through hour after hour of trembling and wallowing in an agony not his own, Edmund had finally been rocked to an uneasy sleep.
And only then did Peter allow himself to cry.
I know, I know. I'm evil. Next instalment probably won't be up for a week or so…maybe more…like I said, I want to get a head start on this one.
A/N: Yes, I know Helen received the letter concerning their father's death weeks ago. She just only gathered the courage to tell them now, and decided it was easier to pretend it arrived that day.
I just thought I should pop this reference section in, to avoid confusion later on. I apologise if I got any of the history incorrect…
The war: World war two lasted a total of six years, from 1939 to 1945. Judging by the beginning of the movie, in which the Blitz involves aircraft bombers, we can deduce that the movie is set at the beginning of the war.
During the Blitz (the name given to the air raids, coming from the German world 'Blitzkrieg' or 'lightning war') children were evacuated approximately three times, depending on their parents wishes. Some even remained in the country for the rest of their lives.
The children's ages: I guess that Peter was about fourteen when the Blitz began, Susan thirteen, Edmund twelve and Lucy ten. Of course, Peter and Edmund could be seen as two or three years apart depending on the time of year. Unfortunately…
This means that, by the end of the war, Peter would be twenty and Edmund seventeen or eighteen. As we know, this would mean they could well have been enlisted into the army towards the end of the war…
The children's birthdays: For the sake of convenience, I have decided to give the children birthdays, as CS Lewis never bothered. So, here they are:
Peter: April 14th, 1925. The calm period between the end of spring and the beginning of summer (I thought this reflected his nature quite well).
Susan: November 3rd, 1926. The borderline of the oncoming winter, also suitable for her character.
Edmund: October 21st, 1927. Mid-autumn (fall to American's) somehow, the concept of falling leaves seems appropriate.
Lucy: July 16th, 1929. Summer, of course, in accordance with her personality.
Phew, sorry about that…just needed to make it clear before we began. This story is set in Autumn 1940, the approximate time of the second evacuation. Of course, this time, the school terms are about to begin…
Anyhow, please review and let me know what you think!